Battle Stations. Battle Stations. The Red Chinese Navy Is Coming
at Flank Speed!
by Eric Margolis: Spain's
Giant Post Debt Hangover
who believe Cathay is about to rule waves after launching its first
aircraft carrier are getting way, way ahead of themselves. One swallow
does not make the spring, and one aircraft carrier does not make
a battle fleet in being.
The Red Chinese
Navy is not about to steam up Chesapeake Bay and launch Jimmy Doolittle-style
air strikes on Washington.
But the appearance
of China’s flattop is noteworthy coming at a time when maritime
tensions have again flared up in the disputed South China Sea.
flattop was supposed to be a big secret. But it’s hard to conceal
a 67,500-ton warship. I’ve been watching the carrier being refurbished
for years at the northern Chinese port of Dalian on Manchuria’s
highly-strategic Liaodung Peninsula that controls the maritime approaches
to Tianjin and Beijing.
Dalian is one
of my favorite Chinese cities. I call this beautiful port China’s
San Francisco. It’s renowned for excellent seafood and friendly
Just 40 km
south of this city which was developed by the Russians and the Japanese
at the beginning of the 20th century, is the great fortress
and naval base of Port Arthur (today Lushun), epicenter of the 1904-05
Russo-Japanese War. The surprise attack by the Imperial Japanese
Navy on Russia’s Pacific Squadron anchored at Port Arthur precisely
presaged its attack on Pearl Harbor, 37 years later.
aircraft carrier was laid down in the Soviet Union as the "Varyag"
during the 1980’s, but was uncompleted when the USSR collapsed.
The rusting hulk was sold by Ukraine in 1998 to a Hong Kong-Macau
trading company ostensibly to be transformed into a floating casino.
Three years later, it magically reappeared at Dalian.
is the fourth decommissioned carrier bought by China since 1984.
Three others, one small British, two smallish Soviet carriers, were
minutely poured over by Chinese engineers before being scrapped.
Russia supplied technical help to upgrade "Varyag" and
its air component, which may be the navalized version of the Russian
SU-33 or a variant. China has run a mocked-up carrier on land since
1985 to train pilots.
The new carrier
is nearing completion and may enter service this year. But it will
take many years for China’s People’s Liberation Army navy to develop
the pilot and seamanship skills to turn the carrier into an effective
weapons platform. Carrier air operations are the most challenging
and demanding of all naval operations – as I saw firsthand when
landing and being catapulted off the attack carrier USS Abraham
So the screams
of horror from America’s military industrial complex are way, way
premature. The US deploys eleven carrier battle groups – each costing
about $24 billion with escorts, but excluding aircraft.
US Navy has ruled the waves since World War II, including the waters
off China’s long coasts. US carrier battle groups face a challenge
not from China’s infant carrier force, but from a new range of Chinese
air, sea, and sub launched anti-carrier missiles. This growing threat
now includes the long-ranged, land-based, mobile DF-21 that may
be vectored onto US carriers by satellites, subs, or drones.
The prime reasons
for China’s development of a carrier force and true blue-water navy
operating far offshore are India and oil. India and China are undeclared
but still very real strategic rivals. In my first book, "War
at the Top of the World," I predicted the two Asian giants
would go to war over their Himalayan border, Burma, and sea control.
As I’ve twice
written in "Proceedings of the US Naval Institute," India
has been rapidly expanding its naval forces to include nuclear-powered
submarines, surface warships and long-ranged naval aircraft – at
a time when some 400 million Indians subsist below the poverty level.
By 2015, India may have three operational aircraft carriers. India
is determined to keep China’s growing navy out of the Indian Ocean,
regarded by Delhi as its "Mare Nostrum."
China is just
as determined to press its claims to the entire South and East China
Seas, Yellow Sea and Taiwan Strait, and to extend its naval and
political influence into the eastern Indian Ocean, and even as far
as the Gulf.
This week tempers
flared again over the South China Sea as Vietnam conducted live-fire
exercises off its coast, a clear warning to intrusive China which
claims most of the sea as its private lake. The Philippines just
demanded the South China Sea be called "the Philippine Sea."
The two Koreas have been conducting a similar angry nomenclature
war with Japan over the Sea of Japan.
of two new naval bases at Gwadar, western Pakistan, and on Burma’s
coast, has greatly alarmed India and even made the US Navy nervous.
Both will link these ports on the Arabian Sea and Bay of Bengal both arms of the Indian ocean–by rail to western China. Successful
development of these ports by China will allow it to circumvent
the narrow, perilous Strait of Malacca which blocks Chinese access
to the Indian Ocean and Gulf.
the 1990’s, China was still a net exporter of oil. Today, China’s
massive industrialization and mania for cars has made it dependent
on oil imported from the Mideast and Africa. China’s oil import
supply lines must be protected, particularly so in the event of
war with India. It’s no secret India would try to choke off China’s
oil imports in the event of a conflict. The US Gulf-based 5th Fleet
and Pacific 7th Fleets could do the same.
its maritime supply routes is thus a strategic imperative and priority
for growing China. Imperial Britain was always strident about its
God-given right to defend its "imperial lifeline." Its
successor, the United States, has been equally adamant about protecting
its worldwide trade, oil supplies, and spheres of influence.
will follow in their wake.
him mail] is the author of War
at the Top of the World and the new book, American
Raj: Liberation or Domination?: Resolving the Conflict Between the
West and the Muslim World. See his
© 2011 Eric Margolis
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